VIDEO: Senator Lankford Affirms State Role in Health Care, Calls For Obamacare Repeal, Defunding Planned Parenthood
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in support of the Restoring Americans’ Health Care Freedom Reconciliation Act, which will repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. Lankford also spoke in support of his own Health Care Compact amendment (#2877). The amendment would give Americans more health care choices by allowing states, like Oklahoma, to join a compact pilot program that gives them freedom to regulate health care within their state.
Below is the full transcript from the speech:
“Mr. President, I’ve been able to sit in and listen to the debate today. Bringing forward a bill that would do two simple things. It would remove funding from the single largest provider of abortions in the country, an organization that has recently sold the body parts of children for the highest bidder. And we would deal with one of the main issues that I face every single day in my state, as people who struggle under the effects and the harmful effects every day of the Affordable Care Act, which has proven to be neither affordable nor caring to many people in my state. Let me say some of the things I’ve heard recently. That this is all about going after women’s health.
As a very proud husband of a very beautiful lady and a proud dad of two beautiful daughters, and as a son of a breast cancer survivor, this has nothing to do with going after women’s health, nor demonizing women, nor the war on women, nor all the other accusations that I’ve recently heard. This is not about protecting a, what I heard called a lifesaving health care organization, where 325,000 children died in it last year. This is about a simple thing: Children. Now in the past, back in the old days, they used to identify just tissue as tissue. And the wart on your skin or other tissues on your body were expendable. And it was just tissue. So why does it matter? But now, not like in the past, because in the past people used to think that way. But now science is able to look inside the womb and is able to count ten fingers on a child and is able to watch a child suck its thumb, able to count ten toes on that child, is able to look inside and take a sample and see that that child has different DNA than the mom and different DNA from the dad. To be able to look inside the womb and see a unique fingerprint that’s different than the mom’s fingerprint, that’s different than the dad’s fingerprint. And we understand something different now. Because in the past there was a belief that was just tissue. Now we understand that’s not tissue, that’s a child. And as Americans, we believe in a simple thing — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s been what we have been all about from the beginning.
This is not some attack on women’s health. This is millions of voices rising up around the nation and saying we’re better than this as a nation. Why would we continue to supplement the death of children? Why would we do that? Can we be better than that? In the days ahead, I firmly believe that we’re on the right side of history, those of us who stand up for children and for those who cannot speak for themselves. The most innocent and vulnerable in our society need our protection. Just because they’re small and just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not valuable and they can be thrown away. These are children we’re talking about. Little girls, little boys. And we think it’s important that someone in this country speaks out for them. Now, I have heard of late that those of us who speak for life should be quieter because there are irrational people in the country that would attack a Planned Parenthood clinic. Can I just reinforce to you, Mr. President, no one who speaks for life goes and takes a life. No one who speaks for the life of children runs out and takes the life of adult, and says that that’s justifiable. It’s not justifiable. It’s horrific. But just like those individuals who speak tenaciously against religion shouldn’t be silenced because there is a shooting in a church and saying people that are anti-faith should suddenly have no voice in America because an irrational person shoots someone in a church. It is the same that individuals who speak out for the life of children shouldn’t suddenly be silenced by being screamed down because an insane person does a shooting in a clinic. Both of them are wrong.
It’s a reasonable thing for us to be able to ask a single question — can we as a nation start a conversation again about children with ten fingers and ten toes, and unique DNA, and life and promise. Can someone speak out for them? I think we can. This conversation today is also about the Affordable Care Act. Its promises and what’s actually occurred. There is no question that we have major health care delivery issues in America. There is no question we have major insurance issues in America. That has been that way for a while and it needs desperate resolution. My state, like many other states, started stepping into this. Democratic governor from my state led the way in a legislature in 2004 to pass something called “Insure Oklahoma,” to start the process in our state, to say what can we do to try to help the most vulnerable in our state?
How can we help provide some supplement to what’s going on in the plan? We received waivers around Medicaid. Started working through a process both for those that are employed and not employed, they’ll provide that safety net for those individuals. It was a very successful plan until the Affordable Care Act was passed. And then the waivers were removed from our state and those individuals under that plan lost their plan and had to change to another one. In fact, I had some of those individuals approach me and say, “I know this is a plan that is provided by our state. It will be grandfathered into the Affordable Care Act, won’t it?” I got to tell them no, it won’t. We have been denied on that. It’s remarkable to me as we deal with these two topics side-by-side how some of the opponents of life would say we want freedom of choice, we want big government out of our lives, but when we get to health care delivery, the bigger the government, the better.
We want less choice. We don’t want states to have the option to do that. We don’t want businesses to be able to choose how they can do that. We don’t want individuals to be able to have that choice. We want big government to step into people’s lives in their health care delivery and tell them how it’s going to be done. It’s fascinating to me to be able to see those two juxtaposed all of a sudden. Get government out of our lives but get more government into our health care. So now what do we do? In 2010, President Obama in his State of the Union address made this statement. This is his statement. “By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow, premiums will go up, co-pays will go up, patients will be denied the care they need, small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans and neither should the people in this chamber.” It’s an interesting statement based on what actually occurred then after the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was actually passed.
Which is another issue to me. It’s interesting to me how this is called Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Almost no one calls it the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, when that was originally its name. For some reason, Patient Protection has been dropped from our vernacular when this bill is discussed. So he made this statement — “More Americans will have lost their health insurance.” I already referenced how we had thousands of Oklahomans lose their health care coverage as soon as the Affordable Care Act went into place because they were under Insure Oklahoma. That coverage was lost for them. We now have fewer options in Oklahoma for health care. We have Blue Cross/Blue Shield that began notifying 40,000 Oklahomans it will no longer offer the Blue Choice provider network to individuals. Community Care of Oklahoma, a Tulsa-based company offering health maintenance organization plans, has notified the federal government it plans to drop out of the Affordable Care Act market. Global Health, another Tulsa-based HMO insurer said it has already notified Oklahomans it is leaving the Affordable Care Act market. Assurant Health, a Wisconsin company who has also covered Oklahomans, has now notified the government it is leaving the health care coverage area. United Healthcare, the new participant in Oklahoma’s Affordable Care Act market, has announced details — has not announced the details of the plans it will offer but a state official said its rates would be competitive. Well, that will be interesting because in Oklahoma, the rates next year go up on average 35%. Next year. That’s not some projected number. That’s the actual number rates will increase in my state, 35. It’s interesting to me that yesterday on this same floor I heard arguments back and forth about the cost of living increase and the need for individuals that are in a vulnerable position under social security, they are receiving social security, need that help for a cost of living increase.
I completely understand the dynamic of that. But at the same time individuals who would support a cost of living increase for social security recipients don’t seem to bat an eye when people in my state have health insurance increases of 35% next year. Do you know how difficult that is to cover a 35% health care premium increase? The president said premiums will go up while he’s speaking in 2010. I will tell you in 2016 premiums under the plan that he put into place will dramatically go up in my state. The president said while he was speaking in 2010 the co-pays will go up unless we don’t do something. The editorial board of a great newspaper “The Oklahoman” in Oklahoma, November 30th, said numerous reports have noted that policies sold through Obamacare exchanges increasingly rely on very high deductibles with limited provider networks. For someone with a major illness such as cancer, these policies are still beneficial, but for relatively healthy people, the deductibles are so high there is little functional difference between being uninsured and insured when it comes to an impact on your personal finances. I cannot tell you the number of Oklahomans that I have talked to that have said this one thing to me — I have insurance because the law requires me to do it, but it’s so expensive, I cannot use it. So I literally pay for something because I’m forced to, but I can’t actually use it on a day-to-day basis because the co-pays are so high. I hear the same thing from doctors and hospitals. Hospitals were told that their charity care would go down because everyone would be forced to have insurance. Here is what I actually hear from the hospitals in Oklahoma. Their charity care has gone up, all of them. Their charity care and their write-off has gone up because now their individuals walk into those hospitals, say I have insurance, get the bill and realize how high their payment will be, and they realize I cannot pay it. So their charity care has actually gone up.
The statement was patients from president Obama in 2010, patients will be denied the care that they need. Let me give you an example. On June 4th of this year, there was a highlight of Kaylene Richter, a 4-year-old girl who was denied coverage for a prescription she needed for asthma under the marketplace. Loss of choice, loss of competition in my state. Instead of more options, we have fewer options. Doctors’ offices are selling-out because physicians can’t seem to make ends meet, there are so many requirements on them and they are selling out as private practice, going into larger hospital practices. Hospitals are actually having to take in diagnostic facilities. Hospitals are taking care of individual physician practices. Hospitals are combining with other hospitals. We see instead of a large number of great competition happening, we see a smaller number of hospitals, a smaller number of entities, each of them larger and larger to be able to sustain that. We’ve even seen that nationally in the insurance market. Because of what is happening in the Affordable Care Act, it’s pushing out insurance around the country. And this great statement of it’s not government-controlled health care, it’s insurance. Well, right now Anthem, Signa, Aetna, and Humana are all going through a combining process. Where those four insurance companies that are national large-scale companies realize they cannot make it under the Affordable Care Act and they’re merging into one giant company, to see if they can make it as a giant company. Fewer options, fewer choices, centrally controlled health care. How do we turn this back? Well, I would tell you in some ways you can’t.
Democrats that pass this and the President have succeeded in permanently changing health care in America. Those individual physicians that used to practice individual medicine all over the country that have now merged into larger hospitals, you don’t undo that. Those individuals that were going to go into medical school but chose not to now, you don’t undo that for a generation. These insurance companies that all combined into large groups, you don’t undo that. The diagnostic facilities that are going out of business and merging with large hospitals, you don’t just quickly undo that. They have succeeded at permanently changing health care delivery in America. So the challenge is now how do we help in the days ahead? What do we do? Let’s say some things can be done, we can continue to provide greater options, but the first thing that we can do is stop the hemorrhaging.
First, do no harm. First, engage and try to help the people that are affected by this. I’ve offered amendment in this bill. This is something called the health care compact. It allows individual states that want to be able to manage their health care to be able to manage the health care in their state. This may seem like a crazy idea except it’s done in every single state right now already. Every single state already has a Medicaid process. They already have a health care authority. They already make decisions. Those are severely limited by federal regulations, but that structure is already in place to take care of the most vulnerable in our nation. The health care compact would allow states to be able to broaden their authorities and to be able to do what needs to be done to be able to take care of the individuals in their state like my state has tried so hard to do with insure Oklahoma and other options to be made available to people in my state that are being forbidden by the federal government. This would open that back up, [and] would allow that competition.
I can assure you every time I speak to smaller rural hospitals in my state, they cannot get the attention of C.M.S. and the federal government because they’re small and they’re rural and people in D.C. don’t know where they’re located and they don’t have a big enough lobbying voice. They are just another one of those community hospitals out there. That doesn’t happen if they’re interacting with people in my state. Because of those health care parameters are being set by people in Oklahoma City and our state capital, they know every small rural hospital. They know the dynamics and the difficulties there. They’re not last in line. They are a part of the family. Allowing individual states to be able to make health care decisions through health care compacts that actually allows that state to be able to manage health care in their state is a tremendous asset. My state has asked for that. Eight other states have asked for that. It’s not an unfair request. It’s something that we should make available to states that choose to do that. Now, will every state choose to do that? No, probably some states would want the federal government to be able to manage some of their health care. Those states are free to able to do that.
But for states that want to be able to have that choice, allow them to have the freedom to be able to do that. If they have the structure to be able to fulfill the needs in their state, why would we forbid it? Why in the world would we say that those of us in Washington, D.C. know and care more for Oklahomans than Oklahomans? When people in DC say that we know more about people in that state than the people in that state. I think we’re misguided in that. This can be done different.
What are we up against? We’re up against real people who really face real issues. And it’s been incredibly difficult for them to be able to walk through the Obamacare transition. This is not about patient protection. And it’s been far from affordable, as prices continue to go up. Let me just read one story from my state. A lady who lives in a rural area in my state. This has been one of the toughest areas. The affordable care act assumes everyone lives in New York City or some metropolitan area. Welcome to the rest of America. Not everyone lives in big urban settings. This is one of those folks. She lives in a rural area of — not too far but a good distance from Oklahoma City. She said she sold some land recently — by the way, she is on the health care exchanges. She sold some land recently, which you do in rural America, that made her income go up significantly for that one year of one land sale. She said the marketplace doesn’t see it as a one-year thing. And so they take all the information about her subsidies on that before taxes, so it raised her freedom $43 to $400. She said she’s going to try to figure out a way to be able to manage that. Then she says this. Why does she have to pay so much for a plan that’s not even useable in her area? No one will take her insurance and providers are dropping it because they’re not getting paid.
She has to now travel all the way to Oklahoma City so she can find care at all. All she’s looking for is an affordable option and people in her area that will actually take it. It’s one thing to say it’s providing an option. It’s another thing to say you can actually access that option. You know, we can do better as Americans. This is a conversation we should have. Let’s have it. Let’s talk about a better way to be able to do this. This is not about fixing something. This is about a transition that’s happened in health care in America and it needs to be corrected. We can never go back to where we were. There’s been too much permanent damage in the system. Now, it’s a matter of what can be done that’s best for people, not what’s best for the federal government. But what’s best for the people of our state. Let’s do it. I’d encourage the adoption of my amendment. And I would encourage the adoption of this reconciliation package that’s before for our nation in this body, in the days ahead. With that, I yield the floor.”